The balls are all up in the air

Chris Simmons Shares his thoughts on the golf ball Model Local Rule proposals and what it could mean for caddies and players

Having had some quieter years recently (at least by their own standards) The R&A and USGA really put the cat among the pigeons with their proposal to limit how far the golf ball travels at the very top level.

If social media is anything to go by, they’ll certainly have a lot to go through at the end of their feedback period!

As I’ve spent time on tour and talked to players, I’ve moved toward feeling this proposal isn’t the best way forward.

Having been inside the ropes then gone home and played myself, there is something not right about drawing a line and making a clear differentiation between the pros and amateurs based on the balls they’re allowed to play.

When it comes to practicalities on changing golf balls, should the rules change, it honestly isn’t a huge deal for the players. Generally, they could switch anything in the bag and get used to it pretty quickly.

The thing it would really impact is wedge play. When Matt signed with Callaway, having been a Titleist Pro V1 player since he was an amateur, it took him a couple of weeks to make the move to the Chrome Soft X golf ball. But when you hit the middle of the face consistently and have access to TrackMan data, you soon get dialled in.

What takes the most time is trusting that change – knowing that when you pull the trigger it’s going the distance you want. With a driver, the variance can be bigger as the target is bigger, but with a wedge you have to know you can land it on a number on demand.

Interestingly, all of this hasn’t been a huge thing on tour since the announcement. Maybe the players think it won’t happen after the initial backlash? If I were a betting man, and having been around the players and tour recently, I don’t see this proposal being part of our future… but time will tell.

What The R&A and USGA have done is kickstart the conversation on changing the importance of driving distance within the overall skillset of golfers. If we also accept their point that extending golf courses is unsustainable – whether due to space, cost or resources such as water – then something is going to change to reduce driving distance and/or make hitting it far more of a risk.

I don’t think separating pros and amateurs through different golf balls is the right answer, but I also wouldn’t want to be the one deciding what the right way forward is!

We’ll see what happens in the next three years – and even beyond that – but I won’t be holding my breath for a big change any time soon.